Mark J. (NDD#102) (33 Posts)

Mark was born and raised in Fayetteville, WV. He first visited Disney World back in 1975 and was instantly hooked. He returned several times as a child and now brings his own family as often as possible. Being a new lawyer, however, that isn't as often as he'd like. Mark is married to Sherri, NDM#237.

photo Dennis Brown

Disney seems to have a preference for families of four or less.  Most of its resort rooms hold a maximum of four people.  But what are you to do if your family is bigger than average?  What if you have more than four?  Well, you can always stay off-site, for instance, at a vacation home.  If you want the theming and amenities of a Disney resort, you could also stay at a Disney Deluxe Resort.  All of the Deluxes except Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge sleep five. A DVC rental is an option, too.  A 2-bedroom villa sleeps eight while a 3-bedroom Grand Villa sleeps twelve.  But “Deluxe” may not fit your budget.  Let’s see what options are available for families over four who want to stay on-property, but are on a budget.

The cheapest option has to be staying in a tent at Fort Wilderness campground.  A partial hook-up campsite allows ten people to stay in up to two tents.  It includes all of the privileges of staying in a resort, such as transportation to and from the parks, charging privileges on your Key to the World card, package delivery, and Extra Magic Hours.  During 2012’s Value season, a partial hook-up site is $48 per weeknight during the Value season.  You can also camp in a pop-up or RV, although the rates are a little higher, approaching that of a Value Resort.  A full hook-up site is $64 during the 2012 Value season, while a premium site is $79.  My family enjoys camping and we’ve checked out the campground, although we haven’t stayed there yet.  Like you would expect, it is exceptionally well-maintained and the comfort stations (shower houses) are very clean and nice.  There are also a ton of recreational activities at Fort Wilderness, including archery, canoeing, pony and horseback rides, and carriage rides.

Camping isn’t for everyone, though.   The cabins at Fort Wilderness sleep six while providing a roof over your head, and you don’t have to walk far to the bathroom.  Looking at the 2012 rates, during the Value season the cabins will run $285 per night.  Again, you enjoy all of the privileges of staying in a Disney resort, as well as all of the recreational opportunities at Fort Wilderness.

photo Dennis Brown

Disney’s Family Suites at the All-Star Music Resort are exceptionally popular for budget-conscious families over four.  Essentially, Disney took two connecting rooms and slightly modified them.  One room has a queen-sized bed, while the other has a sofa and two chairs.  The sofa and chairs fold out so that the Family Suite sleeps a total of six.  There is a rudimentary kitchenette, consisting of a mini-fridge, microwave, and coffee pot.  One of the main advantages of the Family Suites over other accommodations is that you get two bathrooms—a decided advantage for a large family trying to get ready to hit the parks in the morning.  These rooms are $198 per night during 2012’s Value season.  Coming up for 2012 are more Family Suites at the Art of Animation Resort.  My understanding is that these suites are of the same design as the All-Star Music’s.  But these suites will be $50 per night more expensive, $248 per night during the Value season.  The only reason I can think of for this price difference is because the Art of Animation Resort is new.

I’ve never really understood the appeal of the Family Suites.  All they are, really, is two connecting Value rooms.  If your party consists of more children than adults (for example, a family of six with two parents and four kids), Disney will guarantee you connecting rooms if you request them.  Since a room at All-Star Music is $84 a night, you could get two connecting rooms with the exact same amount of floor space and two bathrooms for $168 per night.  That’s $30 per night less than a Family Suite in the same resort and $80 per night less than you’d pay for the same size room at the Art of Animation Family Suites!  Think about that—over a one week trip, you’d save $210 plus tax for the same-size accommodations in the same resort.  And with two connecting rooms, you can sleep eight instead of only six.  Sure, you have double beds instead of the queen.  But you also have real beds instead of fold-out furniture.  While you lose the kitchenette, you can get a mini-fridge for an additional $10 per night and still save a lot of money.

photo Dennis Brown

Another option for a family of five with at least one small child is the Alligator Bayou rooms at Port Orleans Riverside.  These rooms feature a trundle bed that stows under one of the other beds during the day and pulls out for night time.  This trundle bed will only sleep someone up to 54”, but this seems like a great idea.  I wish Disney would incorporate this feature at some of the other Moderate Resorts.  A standard room at Port Orleans during the Value season will be $159 per night, making this option less expensive than anything short of camping.  You also get the increased square footage and amenities of a Moderate Resort, such as increased theming, a pool with a slide, and a sit-down restaurant.

Having more mouths to feed, more souvenirs to buy, and requiring more theme park admissions, larger families arguably have more need of budget accommodations than your “typical” family of four on a Disney vacation.  Luckily, Disney World has a range of choices for larger families so that any family can enjoy the magic while staying within their budget.

Contributed by: Mark Jeffries (NDD#102) Mark is the DDL Finance Blogger.

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